Los Angeles, Costa Rica
A total contrast to owner Jim Damalas' Pacific coast resort, Hotel Si Como No, in Manuel Antonio, this revamped, cloud–coccooned mountain resort wears a lively contemporary livery that establishes it as the finest hotel of its type in the country.
For years the old Hotel Villablanca offered a reclusive location atop the Continental Divide on the edge of the Los Angeles reserve, appealing to birders and hikers while remaining a rather modest hostelry of only modest appeal. In 2005, Hollywood producer turned hotelier, Jim Damalas, bought the hotel—which originated as a farmhouse—and a portion of the 800–hectare Los Angeles reserve from former president Rodrigo Corazo and with impeccable vision executed a magical transformation.
A winding country line framed by lime–green pastures leads to the property, set in landscaped grounds on the edge of the hotel's own El Silencio de los Angeles, reserve. he main lodge retains its exquisite and quintessential Costa Rican yesteryear exterior, with a broad wraparound terra cotta terrace beneath red–tile–roof eaves. The lobby, however, is an introduction to a whole new world. Its lovely use of a bamboo ceiling, gray tile floor, and copper–slate backdrop are thoroughly contemporary, setting a tone of sophistication that extends beyond electronically–operated sliding glass doors into the sumptuous lounge. Here, the original terra–cotta floor merges into glazed cement, logs blaze in twin hearths with copper chimneys, and colonial–themed wrought–iron chandeliers hover over Italian leather sofas. A hip bar with high stools has flat–screen TVs.
The lounge–bar opens to the El Sendero Restaurant, a classy dining room elegantly laid out beneath a beamed ceiling and decorated with a traditional Costa Rican ox–cart and iconic farmstead pieces. The open kitchen delivers delicious Latin fusion cuisine and features a wellness menu. Red peppers stuffed with ricotta cheese, or spinach au gratin with parmesan cheese in white wine sauce are two mouth–watering appetizers, while entrées include marinated tenderloin in avocado tomato sauce. Tasteful artwork fills the hotel: a marble angel spot–lit in an alcove, pre–Columbian replicas, and beautiful contemporary paintings.
The remake extends to the spacious, free–standing chalets, with their raised bamboo ceilings, bronzed log–burning hearths, dehumidifers, handsome hardwood furniture, sleek contemporary bathrooms with roomy glass–walled showers (all have picture windows), and patio with rocking chairs overlooking the lush gardens. Suites are well worth the upgrade for their larger quarters and oversize Jacuzzis, while many chalets are handicapped equipped.
When not hiking the manicured trails on guided and self–guided hikes in El Silencio reserve, guests can settle with popcorn and cola in a 42–seat surround–sound theater where nightly documentaries and Hollywood movies are screened. Guest enjoy a game of pool or lounge around watching TV in an upstairs library and games room, or indulge in a him–and–her massage in the small yet exquisite spa. Horseback rides and a canopy tour are available at the adjoining Los Angeles Cloud Forest Adventure Park, and guests can even milk cows on the neighboring farm. The gift store is stocked with quality art, crafts and jewelry. And the hotel grounds host La Mariana Wedding Chapel––a simple chapel graced by a ceiling inlaid with painted ceramic tiles.
The Villablanca Cloud Forest owner has paid conscientious attention to environmental sensitivity, including an advanced biodegradable cleaning system and an organic vegetable and medicinal gardens and greenhouse; and to community activities, such as supporting a local children's orphanage. For these reasons, this hotel — one of three Greentique hotels — has been awarded a full "Five Green Leaves" in the Certified Sustainable Tourism program, Costa Rica's highest award for sustainable practices and operations.
The staff are drawn entirely from the local community and perform enthusiastically, adding to the immense pleasure of a stay at this often–mist–shrouded hotel.
Web Address: www.villablanca–costarica.com
Total Number of Rooms: 35
Published rates: $170 to $255 BB
Review and photos by Christopher Baker